Prosecution, trial, conviction: Drastic reforms needed to overhaul entire legal system

Published: August 22, 2016
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The only solution for swift dispensation of justice and prosecution of suspects lies in overhauling the entire legal system as an effective deterrence against terrorism. PHOTO: anheimblog

The only solution for swift dispensation of justice and prosecution of suspects lies in overhauling the entire legal system as an effective deterrence against terrorism. PHOTO: anheimblog

ISLAMABAD: Plagued with perennial problems, Pakistan’s judicial system continues to rely on the support of military courts to dispense “swift justice”.

No fundamental changes have been introduced to tackle the problems of backlog and inordinate delays because the focus has always been on making new laws instead of overhauling the existing ones to implement them in letter and spirit.

If reforms are not introduced, military courts might get an extension, which, definitely, is not a permanent solution to dispose of terrorism cases and to make convictions.

The military courts were set up following an attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar and would cease to function in January 2017, if an extension is not given.

The military courts were, in the first instance, a stopgap arrangement before revamping the judicial system to enable it to proficiently deal with terror cases.

The authorities, however, have failed to bring any significant reforms in the judiciary in the last two years to make them competent enough to dispose of backlog and provide swift justice.

The faulty investigation is another bottleneck, which often leads to weak prosecution and results in the acquittal of even hardcore criminals.

Judges have often identified and highlighted these lacunas in their observations and judgments but it will not be an exaggeration to say that thousands of judges cannot bring changes in the judicial system unless their concerns, which they explicitly express often in their verdicts, are taken up seriously and reforms are brought about.

The foremost challenge is the enforcement of the law rather than formulating one after another, and strengthening institutions including the prosecution (department) for smooth sailing.

If figures derived from the National Crisis Management Cell of the Ministry of Interior and compiled by the Institute of Social and Policy Sciences are to be believed, a total of 15,691 people lost their lives and another 38,650 were injured in terrorism-related incidents between 2006 and 2015.

These figures are just a glimpse of the continuous death and sufferings of civilians and law enforcement officials, and all this occurred, while the courts including anti-terrorism and military courts continue to function.

Although the official data indicates an improvement in the overall security situation during the last two years, Balochistan remains the most fragile province.

The recent spate of terrorist attacks, including the attack at the civil hospital that claimed lives of lawyers, among others, is one such example of a lawless society.

Perhaps, the attack and such others attacks could have been averted, if the terrorists and their facilitators are arrested, prosecuted and sentenced to make them an example for others.

Moreover, it was recently reported that nearly 1,000 bullet-riddled bodies were recovered from various parts of Balochistan in the past six years.

It was further reported that over 112 persons were still missing.

The matter of enforced disappearance is not just limited to Balochistan as a petitioner has recently claimed before the Islamabad High Court. The frequency of enforced disappearances in the federal capital has risen sharply over the last few months, according to the petitioner.

The law and order situation remains precarious across the country despite making of several arrests and setting up of military courts, which have handed down sentences to some “convicts”, but terrorism incidents continue to haunt the society.

The only solution for swift dispensation of justice and prosecution of suspects lies in overhauling the entire legal system as an effective deterrence against terrorism.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd,  2016.

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